Michael Hamburger was born on March 22, 1924 in Berlin, Germany. His family moved to the United Kingdom in 1933 as Adolf Hitler was coming to power. He attended Christ Church, Oxford, where he read modern languages (French and German). During World War II, he was drafted in the army as an infantryman. After the war, he held a series of teaching positions, initially in Germanic studies, on both sides of the Atlantic, including University College London, Reading University, Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts, and the University of California at San Diego. He was the author of more than 20 volumes of poetry and many volumes of essays including Flowering Cactus, Collected Poems, and String of Beginnings. He was also a critic and translator of German works. He received numerous translation awards including the Schlegel-Tieck Prize, the Goethe Medal in 1986, and the European Translation Prize in 1990. He died on June 7, 2007 at the age of 83.
The German lyric poet John Christian Friedrich Hï¿½lderlin was born in 1770. Admired for his ability to re-create the forms of classical Greek poetry in German verse, Holderlin also completed the novel Hyperion. Holderlin studied theology at the University of Tubingen, where he obtained a Master's degree. As a young man he worked as a tutor, including in the house of a wealthy Frankfurt banker, where he and his employer's wife, Susette, fell in love. After a short, happy affair, Holderlin was forced to leave. Though he was shaken by the experience, Holderlin created much of his finest work during this period, including elegies and odes. Shortly thereafter, Holderlin began to suffer from schizophrenia and composed several poems that were notable for their apocalyptic grandeur. For the last thirty-six years of his life, he suffered from chronic mental illness. Holderlin died in 1843.